Month: May 2017

Reason #1,145 Why Teachers Need to Require Students to Follow Directions

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I can remember a conversation with a parent about a student losing points for not following directions. Her argument was that he worked really hard. My stance was that none of that mattered if he could not follow the directions. Fast forward 4 years and I stumble across an article about the New Jersey Institute of Technology losing a $1.25M grant because someone did not follow directions. I won’t recap the entire article here. I have shared the link in case you’d like to read about it. What I will say is that there are 2 very important take-aways here:

GREAT Informational Text for Class! 

The first thing I thought when I saw an Instagram post about this article was that this is a WONDERFUL informational text for students to read and dissect. Because it is so relevant, it is only necessary for the teacher to ask, “What do you think about this?” Imagine if students were in small groups discussing the text and then they shared out their thoughts.

(For you ๐Ÿ™‚ –  I have copied and pasted the article into a PDF NJ College.)

What’s the Cost of Not Following Directions?
Apparently, it costs $1.25M when you don’t follow directions, and I propose that it costs a upward boundlot more. This may even be a fireable offense. That does not mean that the person in this instance was fired (the article does not say that, and I have no way of knowing). It just means that, I believe, if a university has been offering a college-prep program to low-income children for the past 18 years, and they are no longer able to do so because someone couldn’t double-space an application, firing seems very possible. Furthermore, costs in this situation manifest in several ways:

  1. The students who are unable to participate in this program become collateral damage.
  2. The university’s reputation could be tainted in the community.
  3. The people who work during this program also lose out.

I’m sure there are other costs associated with this faux pas, but that really is not my point. My point is that there are times when not following directions can cost you more than you are willing to give up. It is important that everyone understand the importance of following directions. While the university will appeal this decision, and this program is slated to be cut under the Trump Administration’s proposed budget, these options/outcomes are not always present. In fact, in life, not following directions can cause great heartache.

It’s The End Of The Year, Now What?

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It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

As we watch the playoffs in my house, I am always impressed with the effort the losing team gives all the way up until the last second. Even if they are down by 10 points, it appears that they are hopeful, and so they persevere. Time-outs are called, they huddle, and the coach gives a play, a strategy… a last ditch effort to win the game…

You don’t have to love basketball to understand my analogy. As teachers, it is not over, until it’s over. The same effort I see when I watch athletes in the final seconds of a game, is the same effort I tried to exert at the end of each school year. I know how taxing it can be to make it through an entire school year and cap it off with standardized testing. Whew! It is exxhauuusting! But we must take a few things into consideration:

  1. Learning is never-ending: As learners, we can all learn new things and polish skills we have.
  2. Develop the whole child: Children deserve to understand all of the opportunities available to them, not just the ones their demographic dictates as possible. Introducing fun, new things at the end of the year can kindle a fire you may never see. But remember, it isn’t about you.
  3. Personalization: This word is buzzing around all over the education world right now, and for good reason. Personalization may feel challenging at first, but the end of the year is a great time to give it a try. Then, ask your students for feedback. Take that information and use it next year. You never know, it may be easier than you think.
  4. Student-Choice: Allow students to choose activities that interest them. Learning is so much better when we like how we are learning.
  5. Data: What does your data tell you? Where were your students struggling this year? How can you incorporate some of those skills at the end of this year so that next year their achievement gap is not as wide?

Now What?

Well, considering all of the aforementioned, here are some things you can do:


  1. Task Cards – At the secondary level, I rarely see these used, but in elementary, they are all the rave! With these, you can hit student-choice and personalization.ย  Allow students to choose the skill they want to practice, the task, etc. Give them a certain amount of tasks to complete within a certain time-frame (dear God, don’t forget to give them a time-frame๐Ÿ™„), and leave them alone.
  2. Be creative – Take your students on a writing journey. You can make it a collective activity, or give them choice (again with the student-choice). Here are a few examples:
    • Write reviews. Review everything – television shows, meals, movies, shoes, quill-175980_640clothes. The sky is the limit. Whenever I had students write reviews, I was always impressed with what they observed.
    • People watch, and write about it. Take a trip around the building… around the grounds for that matter. Have students write down notes as they walk. Then, come back to the classroom and discuss it. Write about it..
    • Interview people. As a class, come up with different categories – school events, seniors going off to college, first year teachers… anything. Give them criteria and set them free.
  3. Take them to a far away place. How exciting is that?! When I was in the river-690374_640classroom, many, if not most, of my students had not been outside of the immediate area. Taking them on adventures through reading and writing is two-fold. They are still learning, but they are having fun. Choose a country and read their news, learn about their culture, and find literature from, or about, their culture.

Now go off and be great! It’s almost over ๐Ÿ™‚

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